I’m not very familiar with MARINA, with my only experience with her being her “familiar froot” beef with Charli XCX and her album “LOVE + FEAR”, which I didn’t really care for at all. I still want to listen to her more essential albums, but I thought I could still go into her latest album since the consensus seems to be that this is more of a “return to form”. However, while this is certainly an improvement over her last record, I still found “Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land” to be an unsatisfactory listen.
There’s some entertaining aspects about “Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land” that shows me why she developed such a strong fanbase. For one, MARINA has an incredible singing voice that’s filled with personality during the bops and emotion during the ballads and slower moments. I’d go as far to describe it as hypnotic and it really shines throughout this album. There’s also a lot of great instrumentals that combine pop rock with some elements of synth pop and slower ballads that have really colorful production. I also appreciate the political messages of this album that critiques hurtful systems in modern society, especially the patriarchy as well as Hollywood. However, that’s really where this album falls apart - not in its messages but it’s approach to exploring them.
As much as I appreciate what MARINA is trying to say on this record, but a lot of the actual lyrics on “Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land” are really surface level and, frankly, poorly written. The lyrics really don’t have a poeticism to them in any way or any insights that are unique in what she’s saying or how she’s saying them, they often feel more like things she just learned yesterday for her speech and debate class the next day. This problem doesn’t just pertain to the political lyrics, although those are the most obviously half baked, as there’s a lot of bad lyrics through out this record. I’m not a great songwriter or anything, but a lot of these lyrics feel like something I’d write as a rough draft to get out my initial thematic and melodic ideas and would know in the moment that I’m going to change them later.
It’s clear why people are enjoying this album, and more than anything I’m actually really motivated to listen to her projects pre-2019. But MARINA’s on the nose approach to lyricism on “Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land” really devalue the amount of positives that the album has going for it.